• Bankers `aren't that special,' Morgan Stanley CEO says
  • Goldman president says firm has `no problem' luring workers

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley are having no trouble attracting talent even as pay falls and technology firms lure more of the best students, two of the firms’ top executives said.

While bankers have some unique skills, in general they “aren’t that special,” Morgan Stanley Chief Executive Officer James Gorman said Tuesday in an interview at a conference in New York. Goldman Sachs has had “absolutely no problem” finding eager workers even as more choose to pursue careers in technology, President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn said in a separate interview at the same event, which was sponsored by DealBook.

Banks are facing questions about their ability to attract elite recruits as many at the top schools choose to join tech firms. The largest U.S. financial firms have also been under pressure to lower compensation and other costs since the 2008 financial crisis, as new regulations force them to use less leverage and exit some businesses entirely.

Gorman said the talent pool is global and more than sufficient for banks’ needs. Firms could find capable employees just as easily from the University of Melbourne, Gorman’s alma mater, as they could from Harvard University, he said.

Pay Complaints

An April survey by Bloomberg Markets magazine found that 48 percent of financial professionals said their pay was less or much less than they hoped. Just 14 percent said pay exceeded their expectations. Gorman said in 2012 that employees who were unhappy with their compensation should “just leave,” after the firm cut pay for senior investment bankers and traders by an average of 20 percent to 30 percent.

Gorman said in the wide-ranging interview with DealBook that banks have become “dramatically safer” since the crisis and subsequent government bailouts. Criticism of investment bankers is “toning down,” he said.

Cohn discussed the firm’s culture, the regulatory environment and shareholder activism. Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, who said in September that he has a “highly curable” form of lymphoma, is doing “great” and in the office or on the phone every day, Cohn said.

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